Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.png
Agency overview
Formed12 March 1971[1]
Preceding agency
JurisdictionCommonwealth of Australia
Employees2188 (estimate for averaging staffing level for 2017–2018)[2]
Annual budgetA$140.7 million (2007–2008)
Ministers responsible
Agency executive
Child agencies

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) is an Australian Government public service central department of state with broad ranging responsibilities, primary of which is for intergovernmental and whole of government policy coordination and assisting the prime minister of Australia in managing the Cabinet of Australia. The PM&C was established in 1971 and traces its origins back to the Prime Minister's Department established in 1911.

The role of PM&C is to support the policy agenda of the prime minister and Cabinet through high quality policy advice and the coordination of the implementation of key government programs, to manage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy and programs and to promote reconciliation, to provide leadership for the Australian Public Service alongside the Australian Public Service Commission, to oversee the honours and symbols of the Commonwealth, to provide support to ceremonies and official visits, and to coordinate national security, regulatory reform, public data, and women's policy.

The department is similar but not analogous to the United States Executive Office of the President, the United Kingdom Cabinet Office, the Canadian Privy Council Office, and the New Zealand Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. As well, the Australian states have their own departments of Premier and Cabinet.


Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in Barton, Australian Capital Territory
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in Barton, Australian Capital Territory

Before 1911, the prime minister had no department of his own as such. The prime minister was concurrently the minister for external affairs, and used the services of the Department of External Affairs.

The Prime Minister's Department was created in July 1911, initially on a small scale compared to other government departments of the day.[3][4]

On 11 March 1968, Prime Minister John Gorton split off a section of the Prime Minister's Department to form the Department of the Cabinet Office with responsibility to service the Cabinet and the committees of Cabinet.[5][6]

On 12 March 1971, the Prime Minister's Department was abolished and its functions moved to the new Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet that combined the functions of the Prime Minister's Department and the Department of the Cabinet Office.[7] The Prime Minister of the day, William McMahon, told the media that the former system with separate departments was inefficient.[8]

Portfolio ministers

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio includes the following ministers:

Secretary of the Department

The secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is the head of the department, also known as the secretary of the level of Senior Executive Service Band 4 in the Australian Public Service as per the Public Service Act 1999.

The secretary of the department is the equivalent of the Cabinet Secretary in the United Kingdom or the Clerk of the Privy Council in Canada.

The position of Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet should not be confused with the position of Cabinet Secretary which has been both a ministerial position within the Cabinet and a political staffer within the Prime Minister's Office.

The secretary is supported by a senior executive of the department, composed of the Senior Executive Service Band 3 officials of deputy secretaries across the portfolio groups of the department.

Name Postnominal(s) Term began Term ended Time in Appointment
Secretary, Prime Minister's Department
Malcolm Shepherd CMG, ISO 1 January 1912 27 January 1921 9 years, 26 days
Percy Deane CMG 11 February 1921 31 December 1928 7 years, 324 days
Sir John McLaren CMG 1 January 1929 2 March 1933 4 years, 60 days
John Starling CMG, OBE 2 March 1933 11 November 1935 2 years, 254 days
Frank Strahan CBE, CVO 11 November 1935 24 August 1949 13 years, 286 days
Sir Allen Brown CBE 25 August 1949 31 December 1958 9 years, 128 days
Sir John Bunting CBE 1 January 1959 10 March 1968 9 years, 69 days
Sir Lenox Hewitt OBE 11 March 1968 12 March 1971 3 years, 1 day
Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Sir John Bunting KBE 17 March 1971 31 January 1975 3 years, 320 days
John Menadue AO 1 February 1975 30 September 1976 1 year, 242 days
Sir Alan Carmody CBE 1 October 1976 12 April 1978 1 year, 193 days
Sir Geoffrey Yeend AC, CBE 18 April 1978 10 February 1986 7 years, 298 days
Mike Codd AC 10 February 1986 27 December 1991 5 years, 320 days
Michael Keating AC 27 December 1991 13 May 1996 4 years, 138 days
Max Moore-Wilton AC 13 May 1996 20 December 2002 6 years, 221 days
Peter Shergold AC 10 February 2003 28 February 2008 5 years, 18 days
Terry Moran AO 3 March 2008 4 September 2011 3 years, 185 days
Ian Watt AO 5 September 2011 30 November 2014 3 years, 86 days
Michael Thawley AO 1 December 2014 23 January 2016 1 year, 53 days
Martin Parkinson AC, PSM 23 January 2016 2 September 2019 3 years, 222 days
Philip Gaetjens 2 September 2019 22 May 2022 2 years, 262 days
Stephanie Foster (Acting) PSM 22 May 2022 6 June 2022 15 days
Glyn Davis AC 6 June 2022 incumbent 326 days


In an Administrative Arrangements Order made on 1 September 2016 with an amendment on 27 October 2016, the functions of the department were broadly classified into the following matters:[9]

Organisational structure

The structure of PM&C is organised along four policy and program groups: the Domestic Policy Group (responsible for cities, women's policy, science and innovation, economic policy, infrastructure, social policy, and environmental policy), the National Security and International Policy Group (responsible for counterterrorism, intelligence, national security, cybersecurity, international policy, and defence strategy), the Governance Group, and the Indigenous Affairs Group.

In addition to the National Office in Canberra, the department has 33 offices and an in-community presence in another 60 locations across Australia for the Indigenous Affairs regional network.

Staff are employed as Australian Public Service officials under the Public Service Act 1999.[10] In February 2014, The Canberra Times examined pay conditions and staffing records and found that PM&C is one of the public service's best-paid departments and among its least culturally diverse.[11] The following month, then Secretary Ian Watt told his staff that the department was battling to balance its budget and deliver its programs, and that staff would be cut and service delivery reviewed.[12]

Domestic Policy Group

The Domestic Policy Group has responsibilities for supporting the development of policy and coordinating implementation across economic, social, and environmental, industry, and infrastructure policy. The Group also coordinates the implementation of whole of government reform, supports government priorities for gender equality and the empowerment of women, coordinates the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) arrangements, provides advice and support for Australian federal budget process, and formulates national policy on public data. The Group is led by Deputy Secretary (Economic), Deputy Secretary (Social Policy), Deputy Secretary (Jobs and Industry).

National Security and International Policy Group

The National Security and International Policy Group provides the Prime Minister with high quality advice on foreign policy, international trade, overseas aid, international treaties, engagement with foreign governments and international organisations, defence strategy, non-proliferation, information sharing, law enforcement, border security, and crisis coordination and emergency management. The Group also plays a coordinating role in the development of whole of government national security policy, provides secretariat functions to the National Security Committee of Cabinet, and policy settings for the Australian Intelligence Community. The Group also coordinates the foreign affairs, trade and national security aspects of the Australian federal budget.

The Group is led by the Deputy Secretary (National Security). The Group was formerly led by the post of National Security Adviser (NSA) which was established in December 2008 by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and disbanded in 2013 by Prime Minister Tony Abbott with responsibilities transferred back to the Deputy Secretary of the National Security and International Policy Group. The inaugural NSA was Major General Duncan Lewis serving until 2011. The second and final NSA was Dr Margot McCarthy serving from 2011 to 2013.

Governance Group

The Governance Group, led by the Deputy Secretary (Governance) provides advice on legal policy, parliamentary and government matters and honours and symbols policy. In addition it provides support services to the prime minister, the Cabinet, Cabinet committees, and the department’s portfolio ministers and assistant ministers. The group delivers the department’s enabling and support functions and also oversees the implementation and ongoing delivery of key Government programmes, policies and initiatives.

Portfolio agencies

See also


  1. ^ CA 1401: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, National Archives of Australia, retrieved 27 December 2013
  2. ^ Australian Government. "Budget Paper No. 1: Statement 6: Expenses and Net Capital Investment". 2013-14 Commonwealth Budget. Australian Government. Archived from the original on 24 September 2013. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
  3. ^ ""Prime Minister's Department.": Another Federal Creation". The Register. Adelaide, South Australia. 24 August 1911. p. 6.
  4. ^ CA 12: Prime Minister's Department, National Archives of Australia, retrieved 27 December 2013
  5. ^ Gaul, Jonathan (12 March 1968). "PM forms a Cabinet department". The Canberra Times. p. 1.
  6. ^ CA 1285: Department of the Cabinet Office, National Archives of Australia, retrieved 27 December 2013
  7. ^ Solomon, David (13 March 1971). "PM sets up new departments". The Canberra Times. p. 1.
  8. ^ "System inefficient". The Canberra Times. 13 March 1971. p. 1.
  9. ^ "Administrative Arrangements Order" (PDF). Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Commonwealth of Australia. 1 September 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  10. ^ FAQ: The APS, Australian Public Service Commission, archived from the original on 4 November 2013
  11. ^ Towell, Noel (15 February 2014). "Glaring pay gap as Aboriginal bureaucrats brought into Prime Minister's department". The Canberra Times. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 14 February 2014.
  12. ^ Towell, Noel (29 March 2014). "Axe to fall heavily on Prime Minister and Cabinet department". The Canberra Times. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 28 March 2014.